Bible · Christian Security · Conditional Security · Doctrinal · Interpretation · OSAS

Conditional Security – Romans 8:12-14

Romans 8:12-14
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

I am sure my readers will agree with me that the 8th chapter of Romans is speaking to believers, those who are on the path of following Jesus, seeking to obey Him. There is some that may think Paul was referring to himself as an unbeliever in the previous chapter, but I know of no argument that claims Paul is not speaking to (and of) true believers in this chapter. As a matter of fact, this passage begins with

“So then, brothers, we…”

Paul even includes himself in this group he is addressing in this passage.

In this passage he speaks of our obligations and uses a financial image to make his point. He is coming back to a similar financial concept he used in Romans 6, where he spoke of “wages” of sin. In this passage, he brings in the financial thought of being a debtor, one who is obliged to pay something to another party.

In Paul’s mind (I think) he is drawing for us a picture of obligation to align our thinking towards who we are to serve. If I am obliged to pay someone something, due to a debt incurred, my efforts will result in paying the one I am in debt to.

Think of a mortgage. I receive the right to live in a house and say it is mine, but every month I go to work in order to have funds to make a payment to my bank. My bank receives the fruit of my labor throughout each month of working simply because of this agreed upon debt. I am a debtor to the bank. The bank is the master in this situation, for I am obliged to pay the bank an agreed upon sum of funds to maintain my living conditions. My end of the bargain is the eventual owning of the building I call home. I will eventually own the home. Eventually.

Let’s return to the passage we started with. Paul is speaking to believers, to brothers, defining who we are in debt to, who we owe our service to, who we are obliged to pay with our lives.

Prior to our salvation, we were debtors to the flesh, to the old nature that drove us away from the True God. Our end of the bargain with the flesh was that we were provided wages, and the wages of this sinful bent away from God was death, or separation from God. A definitely bad “mortgage” situation!

In delivering a sinner from this dreadful condition of slavery to the flesh and of receiving a payment of death, the Spirit of God has given life to our mortal bodies. (Romans 8:11) Out of this amazing gift of life, obligations are now “up for grabs”, for it appears the believer has a choice.

Remain in the old life, obligingly paying the flesh service (without requiring to!) or to live to the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the body. This seems so obvious and such a slam dunk for the believer to understand and to obey. But let me ask you.

What are the deeds of the body? What is the result living by the Spirit, in that the deeds of the body are put to death? How can I kill the deeds of the flesh?

A few years ago, I heard a teacher refer to Galatians as Paul’s practice book for his magnum opus letter of Romans. (Some practice book!) But there may be something to this thinking, since large swaths of Romans seems to have seed thoughts in the book of Galatians. One passage I would refer you to is in Galatians 5, where Paul speaks of walking in the Spirit, with the result being the believer not fulfilling the lust of the flesh. Echoes of Romans 8?

Let’s take a moment to consider Paul’s list of the works of the flesh he provides us in Galatians 5:19- 21.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now before we go any further, please do not fall into the trap I fell into by seeking to set up rules that would restrict these activities. Doing this breeds pride, which blooms into strife, dissensions envy and the such. Sure I wasn’t drunk, but I dang well made sure made everyone knew of my religious achievements! And how much better I was than them! Wow.

Such foolishness, for Paul is not telling us to restrict our activities from some list in order to attain some status, for he doesn’t even give us a full list that we can check off. At the end of the passage, he adds to the list of specific works of the flesh “things like these”. How can I check off a non specific work – so frustrating! But that may be the point!

Both in Romans and in Galatians, the focus is on following Someone, not on some set of rules or self determination that will keep us from obeying these dastardly former debtors called the deeds of the flesh. For if we walk by the Spirit, these works of the flesh will not be evident in our lives. The fruit produced in our lives will be of the Master’s character.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Notice that we are not even to follow after the fruits of the Spirit, but the Spirit Himself, and in doing so, the fruits will be evident in our lives. With all this said, let’s return to our original passage in Romans 8, and the key phrase that drives this particular post. Notice that Paul speaks of the believer dying.

Read Romans 8:13 one more time.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

How are you doing so far in your pilgrimage? In your walk with the Lord, has the fruit of the Spirit become evident in your life?

Please understand that continual fruit produced in our lives is an extended life long goal, and that recurring temptations (and the falling into these temptations) may produce setbacks, but is not to be the overall trajectory of the believers life. Following the Master, since He is so different than own nature, suggests periods of confusion, disappointment, struggle and failure in our own lives, as we learn of His ways.

My friends, an honest evaluation is encouraged for those who claim to be believers in the Messiah. He has given us great encouragement that by following Him, He provides fruit in our lives for others to see.

Can we be open to an honest assessment of our walk with the Lord? Golly, the judgement of a non-believer may be beneficial for our learning. If we hear from family, close friends or acquaintances that we are a judging, hateful or divisive person, we should consider their words! A discerning spirit is required, but sometimes the harshest statements I have heard have been the most beneficial for my spiritual life.

One thing I want to make clear though is that I am definitely not advocating a self judgement here, a navel gazing exercise that produces no good result. A bit further into this passage, Paul speaks of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit. This is an additional witness the Lord provides, but out of our current passage, and with the reference to fleshy deeds being indicative of the believer living according to the flesh, I would like to encourage the reader to understand how others interpret our lives in relation to deeds of the flesh / fruit of the Spirit.

Seek out an honest friend, or a mature believer, one that you know speaks the truth. Do not seek out a “nice” person! Not much good hearing nice things about yourself, for if you are like me, nice things are always being said in my head about wonderful me!

Also, better if this person has a history with you for an extended period of time. Ask difficult questions, for this is the time to check.

Living according to the flesh will pay out in death and the clock is ticking!

Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you would like to receive daily posts from Considering the Bible, click on the “Follow” link below

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